Returning to the O2 Guildhall for the last time as part of the ‘Farewell Tour’, Bowling For Soup emerge to a feverish audience cheering for the pop punk legends. I approached the gig expecting a rousing and exciting set, a tight performance punctuated by finely tuned witty intervals and a set packed full of hits. I am sad to say while there were hits, the performance was far from tight, and the verbal interchanges from frontman Jaret Reddick had all the wit of a 14 year old who still thinks faeces are funny. I guess they kind of are, up until the second hour when the jokes about fecal matter becomes a 10 minute skit during the encore. There were times during the gig where I worried I would have to write ‘Boring For Soup’ to describe the gig, but it was not so much boring as frustrating. Bowling For Soup are a fun band, they are just a few songs away from being a great one.
Support act Patent Pending opened the gig with a short and feverish set, with some heavier numbers and real passion from lead vocalist Joe Ragosta, a man who makes jumping up on the final note not just an event for special occasions, but one for every other song. The crowd are loud, the band are louder, and while there are certainly tiresome elements of the performance, specifically Ragosta telling the crowd ‘believe in yourselves, believe in each other’, it’s hard not to be swept away by the New York outfit. They bring a real enthusiasm and love for what they do to the stage, and that really showed in the performance. However they also introduced Bowling For Soup as ‘the best band in the world’, so how much of their infectious enthusiasm was sincere is very much up for debate.
Before Bowling For Soup emerge, the sound system first plays a a ‘Bowling For Soup’ chant, so everyone who is not excited knows how to feel, then finally they emerge to the same sound system playing a song by themselves imploring us to get ready for ‘the fun train’. Totally punk.
The set list is a mix of old classics and new tracks from the fan funded album Lunch.Drunk.Love, the best of which is certainly ‘Circle‘, an acoustic and intimate song that really reiterates the band’s Texas routes. Other new tracks are maybe more miss than hit, but fortunately there are more than enough classics such as ‘Almost‘, ‘Girl all the Bad Guys Want‘, and the rousing final song ‘1985‘ to send the crowd home basking in the pop punk afterglow. However the set was not without its flaws. It’s certainly not due to a lack of fun, the band know their audience, and have more than enough energy to get the crowd through the lesser known material. It’s just a shame with such a back catalogue the band spent so much of the evening trying to do comedy segments.
All things considered it was a fun performance from one of the great nearly men of pop punk, it’s just hard not to yearn for more music by the time the 8th penis jokes comes around. The band had a great set, but to talk for 10 minutes during the encore is utterly ridiculous. Farewell Bowling For Soup, you could have been great, but I will settle for you being merely rather good.